“If cameraman Korey (@KoreyDavisPhotography) doesn’t shoot it, I won’t eat it.”
Empty Plates is a cozy eatery amid residential apartment complexes at 6820 NE 2nd Ave, Miami, FL 33138, directly across from the historic Little River neighborhood MacArthur Dairy Farm processing plant, its only sign is a discreet logo on the north side of the building. The small dining room – with beautifully painted murals showcasing daily specials artistically drawn on chalkboards is inviting and refreshing.
Chef De’Bronya Hodges, famously know as Chef Dee, the incomparable celebrity chef to none other than DJ Khaled, is the creative genius behind Empty Plates’ eclectic, yet humble menu offerings.
At only 28-years old, Chef Dee successfully owned and operated a full-service catering company that boasted celebrity and high-profile clients. While there, she created dishes crazy rich people love like, “Tartar of scallop and salmon, caramelized korubuta pork belly and mango caviar of Dutch herring.” Thankfully, you are unlikely to be served anything too far outside your comfort zone at Empty Plates because the menu is modest in price and delicious!
Discovering Chef Dee is a proud member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, the sister organization to my beloved Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, I immediately knew nothing but FIRE was coming out of that kitchen. Everyone knows Zetas can cook like hell, and as a trained chef, that literally makes her a lethal weapon.
We started with the BBQ Rib Sandwich ($11.25) and from first bite I knew there had to be a charcoal grill on the premises. My suspicions were confirmed. A monstrous grill towers over metal shelving directly in the back of the restaurant where you can smell and see smoke billowing daily. Chef Dee grills everything from fish, chicken, and of course scrumptious ribs that comes in both a dinner or sandwich smothered in a rich and savory Memphis finger licking sauce. The ribs were more than likely cooked over high flame reminiscent of what I now refer to as Miami style ribs. You know, the ribs you find on the side of the road that sell out right before you get there. Now you have a viable option at Empty Plates when your rib man runs out, and you know he always does, so don’t act brand new on me.
Our second dish is what Chef Dee is known for in Black culinary circles – her compelling crab cakes, rather in this case, Crab Cake Bites. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t get a full crab cake, but happy to order the bites with her phenomenal Dang Dang Sauce ($10). By far the best crab cakes in the area, I have been singing their praises since tasting them at a private dinner hosted by Chef Dee a couple weeks back. The sauce is much more than a simple remoulade; it’s a tricked-out version of the traditional seafood condiment that will have you licking both the plate and your fingers. A MUST HAVE!
Moving along, we tried another one of Chef Dee’s staples—her incredible Jerk Chicken Pasta ($16.25). Lord Have Mercy! I was prepared to get my deacon’s chair and lead the restaurant’s patrons in a prayer session. Just want to thank you Lord for this pasta! I can’t tell you enough how thankful I am, until I tried her Fried Oreos ($7.50)! Have Mercy Lord! I truly felt blessed to be enjoying this delectable pasta with sauce that was rich, creamy and packing a heat giving you just enough to sweat, but not too much where your mouth is burning. Of course, she tops it with heaps of freshly grilled jerk chicken from their monster grill.
The Fried Oreos embodied the carnival goodness expected at any regional fair or theme park served by a one eyed white guy named Jasper with an apron that reads “Oreos and Grease is Life.” Both these beauties are MUST HAVES!
Empty Plates Restaurant has an ample menu for the vegetarian and meat lover, as well inclusive of her glazed salmon plate, I didn’t get to sample, but hear it’s astonishing. I appreciated the simplistic yet innovative approach to traditional African-American and Afro-Caribbean cuisine.
As a guest lecturer at culinary schools and programs throughout the state, Chef Dee’s genius is truly experienced with these comfort delights. With new restaurants opening almost weekly in South Florida, Empty Plates made a huge splash opening its doors in Spring 2017. Sunday Brunches and weekly special events give the eatery character and interest for both weekend and weekday dining. I give Empty Plates a solid 10 out of 10 stars for service, food quality, ambiance, and of course AMAZING TASTE! Empty Plates is Hungry Black Man approved. You can reach Empty Plates by calling (786) 542-8644.
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